The summer of 2018 would soon be coming to an end, and Rachel and I had just seen two of our favourite bands – Hiss Golden Messenger and Courtney Marie Andrews - play a double bill in Ghent, Belgium, when I started talking with Andrews’ bass player. Somehow, Ole Kirkeng knew The Influences already and soon we’re talking about sessions, Buck Meek and other musicians we both like. The Norwegian songwriter lived in the United States for about six years, but soon after our meeting in Belgium moved back to Oslo just before coming to Utrecht to record this session in the exact same spot as Buck Meek a year earlier.
The Amsterdam Songwriters Guild has been around as long as I can remember and my friend Ro Halfhide is one of the people of the collective promoting the local songwriters. I visited one of their weekly open mic nights in Amsterdam some years ago, because Ryan Joseph Burns was in town and felt like playing some songs. One of the few things I remember about that night was that we drank too much and there was one performer who had us both in awe. That was Jara Holdert, who now performs as Lewin. So, a bit later Jara performed our live show in Utrecht and last January we filmed this session at Johnny Wonder's office. Lewin covered Joni Mitchell and The Beatles and played her own 'The Giant'.
Usually when I interview someone, I go in pretty well prepared. I never have questions written down or anything like that, but I’ll have read things and have an inkling of what I’d like to talk about. Not this time. I had focused mainly on filming the session with William Fitzsimmons, but when we sat down at the Backstage Hotel in Amsterdam to talk afterwards, it didn’t take much to get deep into conversation with the songwriter who was born in Pennsylvania. It started with pretty much a ten-minute monologue about his love for Tom Petty, whose 'Learning To Fly' he’d just covered.
Earlier this week I dreamed of walking through Glasgow's Kelvingrove Park. I looked at the wild squirrels, sat on a bench, ate a curry at Mother India's Cafe, strolled through the Art Gallery and had a coffee at Artisan Roast on Gibson Street. Then the coffee woke me up, and I realized I was in Utrecht, with no idea when I could visit Glasgow again. But, I did still have this session that I filmed with John Alexander, in Kelvingrove Park surrounded by blossom. We filmed Who Why When and a cover of Tom Waits' Walking Spanish.
Do you still know what day it is? I don't, half of the time. I do know it's Thursday though, because I'm posting a new video. About a year ago, Scottish songwriter Ryan Joseph Burns was in Utrecht and as always, we end up filming songs. You've already seen the 'Hickory Wind' duet with Demi Knight, but we also filmed this stunning cover of Courtney Marie Andrews' brilliant song 'How Quickly Your Heart Mends'. "Her voice I suppose is the first thing that grabs you, but I find the lyrics and pacing within the melody so captivating."
When we filmed this session, after Ruben Hein's sound check for a Beach Boys tribute in Utrecht’s TivoliVredenburg, his most recent album Groundwork Rising had yet to be released. An album Hein described as a milestone at the time. "That record was important. And determinative, because it had been a new step for me in the process. You can clearly tell it's different from the things I've done before. It may always be the case that I continue to vary in my work. Which might be incredibly awkward marketing-wise, but it is what it is." Watch him play The Beach Boys' 'God Only Knows' and 'Disney Girls', plus 'February Days' in a big empty room.